KATHMANDU, May 19: The intraparty difference that seemingly came to an end through talks between Chairman KP Oli and the rival faction-led by Madhav Kumar Nepal in the ruling CPM-UML a few weeks ago has surfaced once again in the by-election being held for a vacant seat in the National Assembly on Thursday.
Although both Oli and Nepal are still in the same party, they have fielded different candidates in the by-election being held for a vacant seat in Bagmati Province. While the Oli-led UML has fielded Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa "Badal'', the Nepal-led faction of the party has extended its support to Dr Khim Lal Devkota, a UML leader close to Nepal.
A former Maoist Center leader, Home Minister Thapa is now considered close to Chairman Oli. On Tuesday, Thapa reached the residence of senior leader Nepal to seek his support in the by-election being held on Thursday. However, Nepal turned down his request, saying that he had already committed his support to Dr Devkota, who also has secured the support of the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Center).
All lawmakers of Bagmati Province Assembly and chiefs and deputy chiefs of all local governments in Bagmati Province can cast their votes in the by-election being held on Thursday. Although Thapa is sure to win the election if he is able to garner the support of entire UML voters, this looks less likely despite Chairman Oli on Wednesday calling all UML voters to cast their votes in favor of Thapa.
Each vote of Provincial Assembly members has a weightage of 48 votes, whereas the vote of chiefs and deputy chiefs of local governments is counted as 18 votes each. The UML alone has a total vote weightage of 5,130 in Bagmati province. The NC and the Maoist Center has a vote weightage of 2,280 and 1,698 votes. Leaders close to senior leader Nepal claim that they command the support of some 1,700 UML votes.
In addition to the NC and the Maoist Center, Janata Samajbadi Party which has a total of 66 vote weightage has announced to support Dr Devkota. Although Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) that has a total 132 weightage of votes, will vote for Thapa, the opposition alliance candidate Dr Devkota will still be a stronger candidate if the UML votes remain divided, according to UML insiders
The UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel has already issued circular to its lawmakers to cast votes in favor of Thapa. However, this is less likely to be followed by voters close to senior leader Nepal as it is not easy to relieve elected representatives of local government from their posts for violating party's circular.